Idle as a painted ship/upon a painted ocean-Rime of the Ancient Mariner
They stood by the sign with a kind of sick fascination. For a moment flashes of memory that were only possible with minds partially human came. In their bassinets they had been sleeping when a monstrous force had stormed into the hospital, a towering mountainous flaying force hewn in a quasi-human form. The God on the Gilded Throne was six feet shorter than the usual avatars she projected even in her armor but a fourteen foot tall god that had erupted into Gotham and callously murdered innocent and guilty alike and reduced the place to a horrific charnel house had a way of remaining a clear and present presence in the minds and hearts of them whom the beast had fallen upon and devoured.
Then they looked to the right of the monument. And for a moment time itself stood still.
Two infants in a statue held by hands and wrists without arms. The names Karlee Meir and Rachel Roth, the 'Lost Ones'.
Meir sighed and then flexed for the first time unconsciously something she would come to do very knowingly and replaced her Azarathi garments with a golden armor with a black cape, raising a hood over her brown face, her white pupilless seemingly blind yet far-seeing eyes gleaming. Rachel Roth likewise replaced the flowing dress she'd worn beneath her Azarathi robes with a much smaller and more form-fitting kind of plate-armor, and they looked into Gotham.
Should we risk that they will know who we are?
We've seen what the God on the Gilded Throne can do. It calls you sister, perhaps you can cloud minds as readily as it can if they do.
With that the two then took their first steps into Gotham, entering the decaying East End. It was a city at once modern and ancient, solid and liquid, air and stone. Gambrel roofs that seemed more in place in ancient New England where over them danced witch-fires vied with newer buildings that were corroded with rust on the screens. Doors sagged and the stench and slime of mold was all too present. A low-edged hum of despair that was almost tangible even to non-empaths and which was seemingly overpowering at first to Rachel Roth was there, and for a moment she fanced she saw a swollen-bodied nude woman with a fanged mouth gazing with sad and almost protective eyes before vanishing.
Further they strode into Gotham, the empathic presence of Dagger beginning to manifest for the first time. The God on the GIlded Throne and her avatars, the monstrous entity known as the Azar was a knife that flayed the soul and carved and butchered without pity or shame. The Lightdancer was an elemental tempest, a living storm wrought in demi-human form and even in her purely human guise a storm-scale living testament to divinity wrought in a human guise.
Dagger herself was a figure who transcended categories and unknown to her but not as much to her sister who gazed for a moment with wonder and then sadness and horror and sadness again would become quite monstrous for this. A being whose defiance of the writ in stone order of things made her presence hard to quantify, something in a tooth that could never be found yet never gotten out. A spectre always on the edge of consciousness yet not seen and an impending and nightmarish presence. A shining brilliant eye-searing light of gold that left blindness and confusion where once had been order.
Unknown to Rachel Roth likewise her own presence was beginning to flower outside of Azarath. Something like a storm-cloud in her own right, but where the Lightdancer was a being of hope and awe and dread terrible aspect in her storm-wrought presence, the daughter of the demon was something ominous. Hellscape made flesh, something monstrous and the blazing hell-light writ into human form, not a figure of dismal darkness as human imagination in its wretched bigotry would have wished but light, brilliant and terrible as the sun or an atomic bomb. A willowy tall being with a dancer's grace and a nightmare and harbinger of death, and likewise to her sister of choice a being even then deciding to grasp a power akin to hers. Hers the destiny to level worlds? No. Hers the destiny to save them.
It was then that as they walked in the moonlight a figure strode up to them. He was a tall man in a purple suit with green hair and a rictus, a cringing whipped person whose back was still bleeding from the pain following him. A harlequin and a mad clown, and as he turned to them he doffed his hat facing not one monster of a make unknown to him but two.
"Tell me, children, have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight?"
Rachel prepared to move but Karlee placed a finger on her shoulder and smiled.
No sis, let me.
She lowered her hood and a brown face with carbonized charring appeared, her flesh still reflecting her natural form and content in her brownness she turned to look at the monstrous lunatic.
You don't know the Devil, little man.
Casting off the glamor that had made her seem more human she swelled to a height without her armor of fourteen feet and within to twenty feet. That same wrenching presence as a monster of the outside context, the jarring of the carefully created systems made her jar even the eyes of the deranged and savage Joker, who realized with a start that for all that he knew he was a being of two dimensions, lines of ink and pencil, balloons and the like, and that his atrocities would help continue his existence and that of his world that he faced another being equally aware. A being grasping that awareness for the first time.
Rachel looked with a start as a balloon suddenly manifested over the Joker reaching from his mouth with a jagged element on his laughter as tears fell from his eyes. Karlee Meir smiled ruthlessly and then grabbed the balloon straight away from the Joker's head.
Odd font, this. What is this? Comic sans? Really? You, the Joker speak with COMIC SANS?
That last pair of words was a sudden bellow that caught Rachel by surprise and as she watched she realized appropriately for a moment that here in their home, out of the shadow of a greater deity, she was watching the moment in time at which a fledgling entity grasped a greater truth. It was then that she herself grasped that truth and realized with awe that in every world and clime there were multiple iterations of the same people. She could be a being of three dimensions, or two dimensions. A being crafted out of words or clay.
This then was part of how to extend life. She could defy the great contours of fate itself with this knowledge given time and space, could extend a cycle until it was postponed and never came. Not the destroyer and the monster she'd seen in Azarath, a savior and a redeemer. These thoughts passed in a whirl within time and the twenty foot tall being that was her sister was striding toward the Joker, a speech balloon appearing over her mouth, one colored with a riotous rainbow like aspect and written with a jagged font that represented a tear in reality. A dark blue almost purple italic text that was visible in the lighter part of the rainbow's coloration:
Comic sans. I knew you were an evil bastard.
Then raising the balloon in a mocking salute she began to blur and smash into the Joker with his own speech balloon, the blows raining on him with a speed and strength that he had no means to contest, leaving him wrecked in less than a minute. Harley leaped to protect her lover and master but a glancing blow with the balloon led to her falling unconscious and then the balloon seemed to vanish in thin air.
Rachel Roth looked to her sister in awe, saying:
So that's the great secret, then.
She looked with surprise at her own speech balloon. Where Dagger's was a rainbow coloration and a dark blue italic font, hers was a squiggly one reflecting the infrasound reverberations in her speech pattern, some text bold and others normal in contrast to the ones of her sister.
It is indeed. We are all of us products of a creation by a blind idiot god at the center of nuclear space. Our existence is a random set of events stacked together with beginning, middle, and end. Climax and resolution, plot twists, and all that crap.
All of us at this level know that, I think. Most of us just use it to gain power and to become the central characters and greater scope forces maneuvering mortals and then mocking about what fools those mortals be. Arrogant, that. We make them pawns and then laugh at them for games they don't get choices to be involved in. We make them puppets, and then because we overawe them pretend that they are inferior to beings that give them no option but to be manipulated.
She shrugged again and then they resumed walking in Gotham, aware of its two-dimensional aspects now that they saw it and the more fascinated and repelled by it all the same:
I don't really care past a certain point. I realized when I grabbed that damned balloon that I'm in the most annoying part of any story, really. The origin. The point where I am evolving to be awesome and yet not as awesome as I could be expected to be.
She then sighed.
For a moment she looked down and rubbed the back of her head and sighed on a different note.
I came to bury our mothers but the time's not right for that. More things to do, more horrors to uncover. Wonders to witness at the dawn of a new age.
A portal opened in an alley and a drunk who watched it dropped his booze and decided from that point he'd rather be sober. The portal opened outward in Metropolis, ironically enough in Suicide Slum.
Really? We couldn't come out in the nice shiny financial district? Really?
She shook her head.
All right. Well, we're here. Now what shal-
It was then that she saw with a terrible smile the next phase of things and her growing power and knowledge and her sister's likewise led the two to suddenly alter all that they were doing. A monstrous figure lurched out of a building it had torn down, roaring in discontent and anger.
Kalibak, son of a pitiless and dreadful god from beyond the stars.
And toward Kalibak was hurling a brilliant figure, a blur of red and blue, a figure that held Rachel in awe and it was then that the look of confusion on the part of Karlee was replaced with first a wide-eyed stare of comprehension and then a smile that began to cross her face with a shark's grin of razor teeth.